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Train for the Probable

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A person receiving firearms training

As non-LEO legal gun owners, we can train for all sorts of situations and scenarios, and these can be divided into three broad groups: “Plausible”, “Possible”, and “Probable” [1]. Here, I’d like to suggest that we prioritize these in reverse order and focus our training on what is probable in our everyday lives.

Shooting is fun, and guns themselves are varied and interesting. However, regardless of whether we have an NJ PTC or not, how many of us have stopped to think “What is the most likely situation that I’ll be called upon to use my firearm defensively (i) in my home, or (ii) outside my home [2]?”.

I know people who have guns located safely all over their home. I know people who carry a firearm all the time at home. I know people who carry a firearm outside, but lock it in a safe immediately after they cross their threshold. I know people who have a firearm for home defense but would never consider having it loaded and “ready to go”. I know people who have a loaded gun in their nightstand. Are these people all wrong? Are they all right? Do you recognize yourself in any of them? Each of us solves the problem of choice and storage of a defensive firearm individually and according to our circumstances. The critical thing is that we train to those choices, within our environment.

Guns are interesting and collectible and many of us have… well, let’s just say “more than one.” However, is each gun we own equally good as a defensive firearm [3]? Likely not. The ideal defensive firearm is the modern striker-fired handgun because it’s the simplest to operate and is least likely to have a thumb-operated safety device that must be disabled prior to shooting [4]. So, now we’ve thought about this, which gun of all the ones we have are we most likely to carry? Perhaps that should be the *only* one we carry. Perhaps if we want to carry a second gun, should it be from the same manufacturer and have the same controls (eg, G19 + G43, or Sig P320 + Sig P365)?

So, let’s think about threats when we are inside our home. Do we have a home defense plan? Does everyone in the home know their role in that plan (if they are old enough to have a role). Does everyone know which room the safe room is? I’d encourage you to take a considered look round your home, thinking about things like the distance from where you watch TV to the front door, or your bed to the top of the stairs, or whether there are other bedrooms directly behind your bedroom door. Now, if you had to have a shooting solution for these situations, what would it be? Where is the gun stored? Can you make the shot, *reliably* [5]?

Pop Quiz: “How many ground floor windows are in your home?”
Extra credit: “How many seconds did it take you to mentally count them?”

So, consider and plan for how you think an assailant could be likely to enter your home. Make a list, and pick the most likely one as the “Probable”, then pick two or three less likely and put them in the box of “Possible”, then lump the rest in a box named “Plausible”. Don’t start training the “Possible” until you have your “Probable” situation buttoned down.

Now, let’s consider threats outside the home. There’s a fundamental difference between defensive situations inside and outside the home. Inside the home, there’s likely to be some sort of warning – a window breaking, or perhaps a dog barking. In this situation, we have extra time to understand there is a threat and prepare our response, according to our home defense plan. Outside the home, it’s much more likely that we will be caught by surprise, and likely also that it will be on unfamiliar ground and that we will be responding in a much more improvised way. Our training should reflect these realities.

Over 85% of non-LEO defensive firearms uses take place between 3 – 5 yards (9 – 15 feet) [6], so, that is the “Probable”. On the other hand, it’s “Possible” that a PTC holder may have to address a lethal threat at the far end of an aisle in Walmart, Costco, BestBuy or some such; that’s what.. 15? 20? 25 yards? We should be asking ourselves how much time we spend in a big box retailer versus the mall or car park? This is important for our individual realities and I’d bet for most of us, the Givens distances of 3 – 5 yards are more likely than the longer ones. Now, how does one train for addressing a threat using your concealed firearm, when that threat is only 15 feet away.

Take a look around yourself right now and mentally map 9 – 15 feet. If you had to, how quickly could you cover that distance? 1 second? 2 seconds? 3 seconds? Ask yourself, “What could I do more quickly – cross that distance or reveal a firearm from beneath concealment, then draw and fire multiple effective defensive shots before my assailant covered the distance, coming towards me?”. Likely the first, right? So, perhaps our training for carrying a firearm should include training at the Tom Givens 9 – 15 feet distances.

It’s important to remember that at the beginning of the attack, the assailant has the initiative and we have to go through a process of reacting to something we see, recognizing it as a threat and only then, responding to that threat effectively. What can we do to regain initiative? Some key elements might include moving quickly to left or right of your position when you first recognized the threat, or shooting single-handed, or shooting from the hip (“retention”) position. These skills are *essential* because generally, people (aka, “assailants”) can cover 21 feet in around two seconds at a brisk walk. Does your training encompass lateral movement? Does it encompass lateral movement while drawing your firearm and addressing the assailant?

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the “interim” NJ State Police shooting standard for non-LEO PTC applicants. My thoughts on this matter are that yes, it is *Probable* that we may have to defend ourselves and/or loved ones at very close distances so, the close in and retention shooting are important introductions to necessary skills, and that all PTC holders should *clearly* understand their personal capabilities in this area. Regarding shooting at 25 yards, my thoughts are that, since the requirement for longer distance shooting is possible (particularly since long shopping aisles offer little opportunity to hide or escape), then it’s important to clearly understand our capabilities at longer distances and to work to hone these skills with our everyday carry firearm [7].

Carrying a firearm in public for self defense is a Constitutional and legal right, but that right brings a profound responsibility to be able to use that firearm appropriately well. It is incumbent on us all to know clearly when we can “make the shot” within the limited time we will have to do it. The State Police qualification is currently being decried for its defects, and I agree. However, it does point to actual defensive situations that we may find ourselves in when that Most Horrible Day arrives. Even though it is most probable that if we have to shoot defensively, it will be within the 3 – 5 yards distance, it is possible that it may be closer or further than that and so we should be competent at other distances, and train to expand our distance competencies.

My thoughts on “substantially equivalent”. Fellow trainers, it will not be us, nor our local Police Departments who will have the final say on that topic. Rather, it will be a jury, deciding two years after the event, who will be hearing a prosecutor defining differences we inserted into HCQ2 and indicating each as a variation from the standard, in order to present the shooter’s training as deficient.
Thank you all for your time, we look forward to your comments
ScotShot Scott

[1] Rob Pincus, “Defensive Shooting Fundamentals Level 1” p26, published by USCCA, ISBN 978-0-9967874-6-8

[2] Let’s imagine for a moment that the “sensitive places” laws in NJ get resolved in the courts.

[3] If we only own one firearm then the answer is obviously, “yes”.

[4] If you believe that you need a thumb safety, or a magazine disconnect on your handgun, that’s ok, but you need to train disengaging it. That means that you need to practice disengaging it every time you present it, every time you dry fire it, every time you draw it from the holster and so on. Hand on heart, *do* you do that, or do you disengage it, go shooting and then maybe put the safety back on before you leave the range?

[5] A SIRT pistol is an ideal training tool for home defense with this sort of concept in mind, because it shows clearly where the first shot falls.

[6] In Defensive Shooting Fundamentals, as per [1], p52, Ising data from Tom Givens, garnered from TN state CCW holders.

[7] So, if we carry a Sig P365, we train with the 365, not the 320.

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